Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez managed to eke out a win Tuesday in a New Jersey Senate race that should have been a sure bet for his party.
Menendez beat retired pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin as of 8:32 p.m. ET, according to ABC News and NBC News.
Though the Democratic incumbent had a consistent lead in the polls, a third term was far but assured. Menendez’s federal bribery and corruption trial ended in a hung jury last November, and the Senate Ethics Committee formally admonished him for accepting gifts and trips from friend and campaign donor Salomon Melgen.
Those serious ethics concerns soured Garden State voters and the local press on the Democratic senator. But favorable demographics and Democrats’ antipathy towards President Trump worked in Menendez’s favor.
Enough voters apparently took the advice from the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board in a recent op-ed: “Choke it down, and vote for Menendez.”
As a win for Menendez was looking less clear, the Senate Majority PAC dropped $3 million in advertising in the final weeks of the race to help Menendez make it over the finish line.
Losing a seat in this blue-leaning state would have been a disaster for Democrats, who are hoping to keep the GOP from expanding their Senate majority. New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.